All That's Trucking

Where U.S. Trucking Fits in the Global Emissions Puzzle

Blog commentary by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

July 7, 2017

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe
Ploger Transportation, an HDT Top 50 Green Fleet for 2016, is a participant in the NACFE Run on Less program. Photo: Ploger
Ploger Transportation, an HDT Top 50 Green Fleet for 2016, is a participant in the NACFE Run on Less program. Photo: Ploger

Nothing like a mainstream “green” article to make you see red.

The article “Missing Piece in Global Vehicle Emission Puzzle: Heavy Trucks” reports, “A global push to reduce vehicle emissions and create cleaner air for future generations has been underway for half a century now. However, while many governments around the world have introduced lower emission and higher fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars, another large contributor to global emissions has mostly traveled under the radar. Those are heavy trucks or semi trucks.”

The story in Green Car Reports is about a new report from the International Energy Agency on global emissions. It notes that the trucking industry in China, the United States, and the European Union together account for one-fifth of global oil demand: 17 million barrels of oil per day.

The article says only four countries have energy efficiency rules for semi trucks. Yet it doesn’t point out that the U.S. is one of them.

You wouldn’t guess from reading this article about the huge strides the U.S. has made in emissions and GHG reductions.

As Allen Schaeffer with the Diesel Technology Forum said in the article's comments section:

“Consider that heavy-duty diesel truck emissions in the U.S. have been regulated by EPA since 1987. Since 2010, new commercial trucks are near zero emissions and today about 30% of all commercial trucks in the fleet have that generation of technology in use on the road. Today in Southern California more fine particles come from brake dust and tire wear than from heavy-duty Class 8 trucks.

“Efficiency gains since 2010 are anywhere from 3-8% for an 80,000-lb truck, thanks largely to engine efficiency improvements," he contiunued. "And additional improvements or on the horizon as a result of the Phase II greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy rules.

“Today in California municipal and private fleets are also utilizing 100% renewable diesel fuel in their diesel fleets, reducing carbon emissions and criteria pollutant emissions as well.”

The IEA report, “The Future of Trucks: Implications for energy and the environment,” does  say that improving the efficiency of road-freight transport is critical to reducing the growth in oil demand, carbon emissions, and air pollution over the next decades.

The report describes "a more sustainable policy pathway for truck transport" that globally could reduce energy use in road freight by 50% and emissions by 75% by 2050. The report highlights three major areas of improvement:

  1. Improving logistics and operations to be more efficiency, such as using GPS to optimize truck routing and real-time telematics feedback and driver coaching.
  2. Efficiency improvements such as aerodynamic retrofits to reduce drag and low-rolling-resistance tires, idle reduction devices, more fuel-efficient drivetrains, and lightweight materials.
  3. Using alternative fuels such as natural gas, biofuels, electricity and hydrogen.

The first two items are things many fleets in the U.S. are already doing as a smart business move, because there’s a return on investment in savings on fuel, even at today’s lower diesel prices. And the federal government as well as the California Air Resources Board have pushed Number 2 with greenhouse gas and emissions regulations.

The third recommendation, alternative fuels, are slower to catch on because the ROI is harder to achieve. But they do make sense for some fleets, and California regulations and various grant programs are pushing their adoption in areas hard hit by pollution problems. While our current administration is trying to cut the number of regulations seen as being unfriendly to business, the fact is, global trends will continue to drive some of this technology. France, for instance, just announced it’s going to require all electric and hybrid vehicles by 2040.

In the meantime, U.S. trucking companies will continue to raise the bar on fuel economy. Some fleets are reporting 8, 9, 10 mpg and beyond. The Run On Less program from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency is highlighting some of these fleets. (Disclosure: HDT is a sponsor of Run On Less.)

HDT also will highlight fleets that stand out in terms of fuel economy/GHG reduction, alternative fuels and other environmentally friendly initiatives in its Top Green Fleets awards in our November issue. Watch for our call for entries.


  1. 1. Don Holt [ July 10, 2017 @ 07:52AM ]

    Haven't we also reduced class 8 fuel consumption by 50%? I recall that in 1980 6 mpg was typical and now we at 9 mpg and above due to aerodynamic, tire, transmission, and engine innovations.

  2. 2. Dennis O Taylor [ July 10, 2017 @ 12:24PM ]

    I continue to make a case for measuring fuel consumption using Ton-miles-per gallon. Whether you use gross or net tons, trucks far surpass any 4-wheeler currently on the road - and, I suspectt-the all-electrics quoting "gasoline-equivalent" Mpg values. It may well be that commercial vehicles consume 1/4 to 1/5 of all petroleum products, but, if they didn't, we wouldn't have food, clothes, houses and any of the frivolous things we think we need.
    Let's see a passenger car at 200 Ton-miles-per-gallon or better; then we can start worrying about trucks doing better. Experimental rigs running around now at 10- to 14- Mpg are demonstrating 400+ Ton-miles per Gallon. No car on the road can touch that.

  3. 3. Todd [ July 28, 2017 @ 08:50AM ]

    I heard that <a href="">freightliner</a> trucks do quite well on gas. Isn't the average 5.5 miles per gallon right now?

  4. 4. John [ March 16, 2018 @ 06:17AM ]

    Diesel Emission Technician is one of the top companies providing commercial trucking mechanic services including rebooting your trucks computer and fixing DPF system, SCR service, DPF pump repair, CARB inspections, commercial diesel particulate filter cleaning, and maintenance.


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.

Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

sponsored by


All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All